Today in history: Karl Benz patents the first successful gasoline-driven automobile on January 29, 1886
Yesterday, we wrote a piece about General Motors and the auto giant’s plans to end the production of diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 and instead exclusively offer electric vehicles. However, with the arrival of electric cars, it’s easy to forget the journey of gasoline-powered vehicles and how they ushered in a new era of transportation.
As part of our “Today in History” series, want to take you back in time and explore the history of the first gasoline-powered car. 135 years ago today, German inventor Karl Benz patents the first successful gasoline-driven automobile. Born on November 25, 1844, in Mühlburg, Germany, Karl Friedrich Benz, was a German engine designer and automotive engineer. As one person once said, Karl Benz would probably roar with laughter if he knew that two centuries later most people are still burning fuel in their cars.
Karl Benz designed and in 1885 built the world’s first practical automobile to be powered by an internal-combustion engine. His Benz Patent Motorcar is considered the first practical automobile. He later received a patent for the motorcar in 1886.
Benz’s Motorcar boasted a tubular steel frame, electric coil ignition, rack, and pinion steering, an evaporative cooling system, and differential rear-end gears. It’s 1600-cc., ¾ horsepower engine topped out at 8 miles per hour.
Benz was raised chiefly by his mother in Karlsruhe, Germany. His father, a locomotive driver, died in a train accident when Benz was two years old. The family was poor, but Benz’s education was a priority and he excelled as a student. Despite living in near poverty, his mother strove to give him a good education. He was admitted to the University of Karlsruhe at age 15 and graduated in 1864 with his mechanical engineering degree.
In 1883, Benz’s lifelong hobby brought him to a bicycle repair shop in Mannheim owned by Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger. The three founded a new company producing industrial machines: Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as Benz & Cie. Quickly growing to twenty-five employees, it soon began to produce static gas engines as well.
On 28 June 1926, Benz & Cie. and DMG finally merged as the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing all of its automobiles, Mercedes-Benz, honoring the most important model of the DMG automobiles, the 1902 Mercedes 35 hp, along with the Benz name. The name of that DMG model had been selected after ten-year-old Mercédès Jellinek, the daughter of Emil Jellinek who had set the specifications for the new model. Between 1900 and 1909 he was a member of DMG’s board of management, however had resigned long before the merger.
By the early 1920s, Germany’s crumbling economy and heated competition between Benz and the Stuttgardt-based Daimler – the maker of the Mercedes engine – resulted in a merger deal. The Daimler-Benz company was formed in 1926, and the Mercedes-Benz model naming conventions that exist today were first introduced. The Mercedes-Benz name is a combination of two names, Mercedes Jellinek and Karl Benz.
After Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler passed away, entrepreneur and racing enthusiast Emil Jellinek was brought on by chief engineer Wilhelm Maybach. Emil went on to help create the Mercedes 35hp in 1900. Jellinek named the new cars after his daughter, Mercédès Jellinek, whose Spanish name translated to “mercy.” The company later went on to have the “Mercedes” name trademarked 1902. While the company continued to trade as Daimler-Benz, the car line began to carry the Mercedes-Benz name.
Thanks to Benz’s invention. With the technology evolution and engineering progress of the 21st century, we now have electric cars and electric flying vehicles.
Below is a video overview of Karl Benz.